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During Spring Training, Mark from Around the Foghorn and I had a series of articles proclaiming our team was better than the other’s. We are a month into the 2014 season, so let’s rekindle the argument.
The Athletics (18-10) and Giants (17-11) both sit atop their respective divisions after the first month. That is where the similarities end. The A’s run differential currently sits at +59, best in the majors, and 19 above the second-highest team. The Giant’s run differential is a respectable +18. In San Francisco, fans are excited about the amount of offense being produced, with a total of 120 runs. That’s cute. The Oakland Athletics have scored 148 and it’s not even warm yet.
The vaunted Giant pitching staff ranks 9th in baseball with 102 runs allowed. The Athletics are better here too, ranking 2nd, allowing just 89. This while having 2 of their starting 5 pitchers being lost for the year to surgery. We argued before whether or not Sonny Gray was an ace in the making. I believe he has proven that he is. Before Mark rebuts with postseason statistics, let’s acknowledge that the Athletics now have Sonny Gray as their ace, and as he showed on Monday night in Arlington, he can be dominant while facing one of the league’s premier pitchers in Yu Darvish.
In our series of articles, I bashed Michael Morse–a lot. Even with his offense production thus far at 6 HRs and 20 RBI, he is still a liability on defense with a -0.5 dWAR. Last season he started off hot as well, with 8 HR and 12 RBI in April, but finished the season with 13 HR and 27 RBI. Yes, he was hurt for a couple of months, but he wasn’t hurt in May when his production was cut by 1/3 over the previous month.
Buster Posey, the darling of the Giants is arguably being out-produced by Derek Norris, the A’s part-time catcher. After one month and 91 plate appearances, Posey has collected 6 HRs 13 RBI and is hitting .264. Norris on the other hand is batting .386, with 2 HR and 12 RBI in just 57 plate appearances. Yes, Norris has fewer Home Runs, but his BA is dramatically higher, and that’s how you win in the playoffs isn’t it? By getting hits? Norris is finding other ways to drive in runs, besides just going yard. That bodes well for the Oakland Athletics moving forward.
Just to drive the point home, let’s talk about the top 3 starters from each rotation. The Giants boast former Oakland Athletic, Tim Hudson (4-1, 2.17) along with Madison Bumgarner (2-3, 3.74) and Matt Cain (0-3, 4.35). In fact the Giants haven’t won a single game Matt Cain has pitched. The A’s starters on the other hand happen to be in the top-6 in the AL in ERA. Gray (4-1, 1.76), Jesse Chavez (2-0, 1.89) and Scott Kazmir (4-0, 2.11). I believe Mark mentioned something about replacing Bartolo Colon being an issue for the Athletics. Colon sits at 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA. Looks like adding Kazmir with double the wins and half the ERA was a solid move, eh?
The Oakland Athletics have dominated the statistical series a month into the season. There is still plenty of room for improvement for this club however. The A’s bullpen has been “lights blindingly on” thus far. Somehow, the team still has 18 wins. The Giants pen has been extremely solid thus far, but with Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong averaging at or below 5 IP a start, can that bullpen stay fresh for an entire year? It is highly unlikely.
If you’re still wondering why the A’s are doing well despite enduring injuries, it’s because they stockpile pitching like nobody’s business and use a platoon system to both limit injury risk, and put players in situations where they will be successful. The A’s still have Drew Pomeranz pitching long-relief, who could be a very viable starter for the team. The Giants have Yusmeiro Petit as an option in the rotation, and not much else that is major-league ready.
The Oakland Athletics are performing better, have a bigger lead in the division, and more reason for optimism in 2014 even with setbacks, than a Giants squad who has a clean bill of health. Have fun signing Panda Sandoval to $100M over way too many years.